Operation Nest Egg Chick
Value for money
This is an informative book about a real and effective kiwi rescue programme, but it has some flaws which make it less appealing to me, including one particularly graphic illustration that could upset sensitive children.
Educational books are an awesome addition to the bookshelf, and even if they don’t become absolute favourites they can be enjoyable as the kids — or sometimes everyone — learns. It is a tricky balance, though.
Operation Nest Egg Chick is a picture book about a programme which retrieves kiwi eggs from at-risk locations in the wild, incubates the eggs, and then relocates the chicks to sanctuaries where they can safely grow. Alongside lots of interesting fact boxes, it has a story to illustrate how the life of a kiwi in the wild might go, and how the rescue operation helps survival rates.
Unfortunately, in my opinion, this book misses the mark. It has plenty of interesting information about the programme, but I can’t recommend it. There are two main problems for me, and these might not be dealbreakers for you so bear with me — there are positives too.
My first problem with it is that it reads like propaganda. It’s clear from the cover and name that this is a book about helping kiwi survive, so I’m not sure that spin is necessary. If you’re not already on-side with the mission you probably won’t be reading it. Here’s a passage I struggle with:
– “One night a hand reaches in. Father knows the ranger’s smell. He lets the ranger take the warm egg and place it into a container.”
Really? Happy to be corrected here, but I doubt that kiwi trust the rangers to take their eggs away — and if they do the book should provide evidence in one of the myriad fact boxes it uses to inform.
The second problem, and this is really the big issue for me, is that to prove the dangers of predators, the storyline features a kiwi chick being attacked and whisked away by a possum. Along with somewhat euphemistic text (not a problem) there’s a full page, slightly gory illustration of the possum taking the kiwi (definitely a problem).
I guess opinions of this might vary; it is how the world works and a powerful argument demonstrating the programme’s importance… But I’m hard pressed to think of a justification for such a graphic image in a kids’ book. I can think of several alternative ways of illustrating the text that are less likely to distress sensitive youngsters while still getting the point across.
Those grizzles aside, it is very thorough on the information side. On each page there are boxes with extra detail on the factual aspects. I quite like this format for educational books, because kids get hooked into the story, and as they get older and able to take in more detail the extra info can be added.
The book is illustrated in a caricature style, which is well done but not a style I love. It helps make the kiwi more relatable and expressive while presenting them in a realistic environment.
The Little Monkey really enjoys the book; he’s a big fan of our national bird, and this book is jam-packed with pictures of it. I’m looking forward to teaching him more about the life cycle of kiwi (at the moment he just likes the story and counting the birds), but I’m struggling with that one gory page. What do I do with it? Can I draw over it? Stick the pages together? Tear it out? What would you do?